Language and Tradition

Language and Tradition

Tradition has been defined as ‘the total set of beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviour, and social habits of the members of a particular society’. Our culture informs us what’s appropriate, what is normal, what’s settle forable when dealing with other members of our society. Our culture lets us know what to anticipate from others, what they will say in certain situations, and the manner in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and the way they will react. It’s the knowledge of the ages handed down to the present. We’re affected by it, and it is affected by us. Culture is in a constant state of flux, altering incrementally, altering the way we speak and the way we think, the way we act and the way we react.

That tradition is indelibly linked to language is undeniable, for language is a vehicle by which it is transmitted, probably its chief vehicle. One observable way in which language acts as a vehicle for, or a transmitter of, culture is in the usage of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the commonest form of language, when it comes to percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most often found in the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, often does not conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For example, within the phrase, ‘at large’, as used in the expression, ‘the public at giant’, or in the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts had been at massive for 2 weeks earlier than being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ seems before what seems to be an adjective, ‘giant’. This seems to be in direct contradiction to the ‘regular’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically correct sentence, viz. earlier than a noun, resembling in the following examples, ‘at house’, ‘at work’, ‘on the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at large’ appearing on the page in isolation from any context that may make its meaning more clear, has an opaque quality where semantic which means is concerned, and maybe still retains some of its opacity of which means even within the context of a sentence.

To members of the community utilizing such idiomatic language, there may be tacit agreement on what these phrases mean, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.

To learners of a foreign language, any international language, tradition imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is easily understood and realized, however what about the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural value that’s not readily appreciated or obvious to a learner. The meaning doesn’t reside within the particular person words that make up the phrase. The verb, ‘to table’ should initially appear nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, ‘a motion’ should appear like an anachronism, having realized that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.

Every tradition has its own assortment of phrases which are peculiar to it, and whose meanings usually are not readily apparent. Have been this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are nations separated by the same language would have no ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the identical language, the British and the Americans, but each varieties use many various words, and have many various phrases that are typically mutually unintelligible, and generally uttered very differently. Generally only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Sometimes even the context is just not quite enough. Generally we think we have understood when we now have not.

This factors out one other characteristic of tradition sure language; that it exists within a bigger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is comprehensible to an individual from one region may be unintelligible to one from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of customers of 1 language, how much more should it hold true to learners of that language. Many a learner of English, feeling herself proficient, has gone to England only to search out the language at worst totally unintelligible, and at best emblematic, however still not totally comprehensible.

The ‘cultural weighting’ of any language, within the form of idiomatic phrases, is understood by members of that cultural community, or perhaps more correctly, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, shouldn’t be readily understood by those that come from one other tradition or even another speech community, albeit ostensibly within the identical culture.

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